Credit Cards

How to Pick a Credit Card That Can Help Your Credit

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Using a credit card responsibly is one of the easiest ways to repair a poor history or build credit from scratch; however, a lot of people dislike using credit cards, and they find they’re in a frustrating conundrum between needing better credit and wanting to do it on their own terms.

People who don’t like using credit cards have good reasons for their principle: They can tempt you to spend more money than you have, which can easily snowball into a lot of debt, and you also have to remember to pay the bill on time. Failing to do so not only results in late fees, letting the bill go more than 30 days past due will hurt your credit score. For some people, avoiding revolving credit is really the best way to improve a credit score – here are some ways to do that, if you don’t want to deal with credit cards.

Are You Using the Right Card?

Given the numerous credit cards available out there, it’s likely most people can find a card they find useful. Any credit card, when used responsibly, can help you improve your credit.

No cards directly hurt your credit, but some require more planning and attention to detail than other cards if you want to make sure you’re using them well. The other thing to keep in mind when choosing a credit card to help you build credit: Make sure you’re using a credit card. Debit cards and prepaid debit cards are not reported to credit bureaus because you’re just using your own money, though they do present many of the conveniences of credit cards. Secured cards are one of the easiest kinds of credit cards to get and are often considered starter cards.

Depending on your financial situation and credit history, some credit cards may not be good products for you. If you don’t pay your balance in full every bill cycle, you need to make sure you’ve got a card with low APR. (What is APR? Here’s an explainer.) Rewards credit cards can be great financial tools but also make it difficult to manage your temptations: The fact that you’re earning cash, miles or whatever doesn’t justify your purchases. On top of that, if your card has an annual fee, make sure whatever you get in exchange for using the card exceeds the value of the fee, otherwise it’s not worth it.

The key to building credit with a credit card is paying the bill on time, because payment history has the greatest influence on your credit standing. You can see how well you do in that area by checking your credit for free through Credit.com, and where you’ll also see how good you are at keeping your debt levels low, relative to your overall credit limit. That’s known as debt use, which is the second-most important aspect of your credit, in terms of credit scores.

When you find a credit card to apply for, be aware that every application you make will cause a small, temporary drop in your credit score. Many websites, including this one, group credit cards by scores needed for approval, so you can choose a card targeted toward customers with scores in your range and be relatively confident that your application will be approved.

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